Exercise

Creating a Quick and Effective Warm-Up for Optimum Athletic Performance

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“If you don’t have time to warm-up, you don’t have time to workout.” Jim Wendler

Nothing bothers me more than someone who walks into the gym and starts exercising, without warming up.  This is a recipe for disaster on so many levels.

This article will explain why warming up is important, an example of one of my favorite go-to routines, and how to create your own 10 minute warm-up.

WHY WARM-UPS MATTER

Ever been to a pro sporting event?  Notice how the players hit the field or court HOURS before the game starts.  NFL football players literally start warming up for the game 3 hours before kickoff!  What makes you think you’re going to walk into the gym, conduct no warm-up, and start squatting, deadlifting, or snatching heavy weights?

You might get away with it for a little while (especially those younger folk), but eventually, you’re going to hurt yourself.  Plus, you won’t be able to maximize your valueable workout time.  

Many people don’t know where to start when it comes to constructing a proper warm-up for the workout they’re about to do.  Here’s a sample routine, and a good place to start if you aren’t sure what to do. 

MY GO-TO WARM-UP

When in doubt, I’ll go with this one.  It’s simple, full body, and gets the blood flowing.

  • 2 Minutes Easy Pace Monostructrual (Running, Rowing, Biking, Jump Rope, Jumping Jacks)
  • 1 Minute Alternating Samson Lunges
  • 1 Minute Inchworms
  • 1 Minute J-Squats
  • 1 Minute Worlds Greatest Stretch (:30 each side)
  • 1 Minute Cossack Squats
  • 1 Minute Straight Leg Swings Forward (:30 each side)
  • 1 Minute Up Downs
  • 1 Minute Hard Pace Monostructural (same movement you chose in beginning)

This is a very generic, full body Warm-Up that can be done for most workouts.  It does not take into consideration the specific exercises you will be doing in your workout, so there may are some holes in this Warm-Up.  

To the untrained eye, this may just seem like a bunch of random movements thrown out there.  However, upon closer look, there is a method to the madness.  Let me break it down further, and show you how to create your own based on the workout ahead of you!  

I’m going to break the Warm-Up down into 3 phases, with the goal of each phase in mind. 

MINUTES 0-2: GET THE HEART RATE UP!

For the first 2 minutes, your only goal is to get your heart rate elevated.  This is also where you can be the most creative, because as long as the movements aren’t too taxing on your joints, it DOESN’T MATTER what you do!  Just move with intent, and ease into it.  Some simple options are:

  • Running, Rowing, Cycling
  • Jumping Jacks, Air Squats, High Knees in Place, Mountain Climbers
  • Burpees, Up-Downs, Jumping Rope, Lunges

MINUTES 2-7: FULL BODY, FULL RANGE OF MOTION

The goal for the next 5 minutes is to put your whole body through as wide of a range of motion as possible.  This should be upper body, lower body, shoulders, hips, low back, knees, and ankles.  

“If you don’t use it you lose it” definitely applies to your body and what positions it can get into.  Use this time to perform roughly 5 full body, dynamic style stretches to regain, maintain, and improve end ranges of motion.

Perform one movement/stretch every minute.  Move smooth and under control, but always stay in motion during these.  Here are my favorites:

  • Samson Lunges – alternate legs, holding at the bottom for 2 full seconds
  • Cossack Squats – alternate legs, holding at the bottom for 2 full seconds
  • “Worlds Greatest Stretch” – hold for :30 on each side, then switch
  • Scorpion Twist – hold for :30 each side, then switch
  • Inchworm – slow but steady, this is for quality, stay moving the entire time
  • J-Squats – smooth and steady movement, pausing for 2 full seconds at bottom. 

MINUTES 7-9:  FINE TUNING & WORKOUT SPECIFIC PRIMING

Up until now, the goal has been getting warm and keeping your entire body loose.  Now you can start “priming” your body for the workout to come.

In short, priming is when you intentionally create awareness of a specific muscle group so that you can use it to it’s fullest.  Often times we forget how to use certain muscles, primarily the ones we can’t see.  Priming is the best way to regain that awareness.  

Choose which muscle groups to prime based on the workout ahead of you.  Here are some of my favorite muscles groups to prime:

  • Glutes – Monster Walks – 10 slow steps left, 10 slow steps right.  This benefits you in every single workout you do!
  • Lats – Lat Pull Downs – 10 reps, slow and controlled.  For pull up, muscle up, toe to bar, deadlift workouts.
  • HamstringsOne Leg RDL – 10 reps, slow and controlled with no weight or a light weight.  For deadlift, snatch, clean, and kettle bell workouts.
  • Rear shoulders/Traps – Bent Over Rows – 10 reps, slow and controlled with light to moderate weight.  For any shoulder dominant workouts.
  • Hip Flexors – Straight Leg Swing – for snatch, clean, toe to bar, running workouts.

MINUTES 9-10: SPIKE THE HEART RATE

The only intent of the final minute is to spike the heart rate.  This is most effective by doing the same movement you did in the first 2 minutes, but at a much faster pace.  Not quite a sprint, but we’re talking 80-90% during this final minute!

READY TO ATTACK!

That’s it!  In 10 minutes, you are ready to hit your workout with purpose.  You have effectively prepared your body for a workout, maintained/gained range of motion throughout your entire body, and primed yourself for an amazing workout.  

*DISCLAIMER – This style of warm-up is effective…given how short it is.  I wrote this article with the realistic notion that most people do not have 20-30 minutes to thoroughly warm-up their body, nor do they have interest in doing so.  

If you want to get the absolute most out of your workout, you would need to extend each phase of this warm-up by about 3 times, per phase.  So, if you do have the time, feel free to increase each segment by 3x.  Or, use that model next time you are going for big personal record or competing in a competition!

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